A report released today by Harvard Law School’s Fair Punishment Project states that at least six (or 23%) of the 26 men in Ohio scheduled to be executed over the next three and half years suffer from a mental illness. However, only two of the individuals highlighted in the report (8%) meet the narrow definition of serious mental illness spelled out in legislation pending before the Ohio House and Senate to prohibit the execution of certain individuals who were seriously mentally ill at the time of their crime.
“While all the stories referenced in the report are indeed tragic, only two cases are noted as having been diagnosed with one of the five specified biological brain disorders and were known to have been actively hallucinating in the days leading up to their crime,” said Kelly Smith, spokesperson for the Ohio Alliance for the Mental Illness Exemption (OAMIE). OAMIE is a coalition of mental health advocacy organizations and criminal justice reform groups which support S.B. 40 and H.B. 81.
“Just as juveniles and those with intellectual disabilities lack the culpability required for death penalty convictions, so too do individuals with serious mental illness. Individuals with serious mental illness at the time of their crime can and should be held accountable without resorting to execution. People with these debilitating impairments need treatment and accountability, not death,” Smith said.
OAMIE calls on the Ohio General Assembly to pass legislation this fall to prohibit the execution of individuals with serious mental illness.